Families sometimes break down

By Ferrell Foster

Families come in a variety of forms, and they serve varied personal and social services. One of the key functions of family is to nurture the growth and development of children by providing for a child’s basic human needs.

We all know, however, that some families become unable to provide the needed care for a child. When that happens the state steps in to protect the children, as it does in other circumstances where vulnerable persons are at risk.

A number of things can happen when the state intervenes; one is by arranging foster care — a place to provide needed care to a child for a time. Kids may be placed in a number of possible settings — a relative’s home, a licensed foster home, or residential psychiatric care.

Foster care placements have been rising in many counties in Texas. In 2020, 1,181 McLennan County children were placed in foster care, a figure which has risen steadily over the past 10 years; there were 465 placements in 2011. These numbers reflect all children in the varied types of housing.

The placement number reflects the number of children in care at the beginning of the year and those who enter care during the year, said Anna Futral, executive director of CASA of McLennan County. On any given day there are about 700-800 McLennan County children under state supervision with relatives, licensed homes, or other residential facilities.

The rise since 2011 is staggering and should get our attention. Yes, our population has risen, but it has not nearly tripled, as have the placement numbers. This tells us that a lot of families are struggling to care for their children.

Are we any different from counties of similar size?

The rate of placement in McLennan County is 18.36 per 1,000 children. That means 1.8 percent of our children are needing state-supervised care. This is a higher rate than in similar counties — 16.5 per 1,000 in Bell, 4.21 in Brazos, and 7.6 in Jefferson.

The need for care points to a challenge on the family-of-origin side of the equation, but there is also a challenge on the foster care side. Last year, there were 17 licensed homes for foster care in our county. These homes typically house no more than two children.

“Many/most kids do get placed with relatives, which is a good thing,” Futral said, “but for those that don’t have safe relatives to be placed with, they are placed in licensed foster homes. But with so few licensed homes here locally, many children end up outside of McLennan.”

This resulted in only 35% of McLennan County children being placed in the county in 2020. That’s pretty consistent with other similar counties — 36% in Bell County, 35% in Brazos, and 33% in Jefferson. Lubbock County, which is similar in size, placed 51% within their county.

Enough of the numbers; you get the picture. Families need help, and the children in those families need help. Leaders in McLennan County have come together to pursue solutions — stress on the plural “solutions.” These things will not be improved overnight, but we have a lot of good people who care about pursuing that improvement.

If you would like to be involved, contact me at [email protected].

The data was compiled by Jeremy Rhodes of Prosper Waco from the Texas State Department of Family and Protective Services Data Book.

Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco. He is also acting executive director of Act Locally Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

There are children in our midst who need our help

By Ferrell Foster

Doing family is not easy. Families have struggles. Anyone who grew up in a family — all of us — know this truth. But sometimes those struggles become so difficult or dangerous that children need to be protected. That’s when the state steps in, and that’s when the whole community needs to step in, as well.

Forty-two leaders in McLennan County met Sept. 24 to form a new strategic working group — the Families & Foster Care Coalition. Waco Mayor Dillon Meek provided the impetus for this meeting, asking Prosper Waco to convene those who are working in varied sectors to address the challenges faced by families and children in foster care.

Texas is in the midst of a crisis related to foster care, and Waco is no exception. Children are having to spend the night in local Child Protective Services offices because there are no places to take them. This is not the fault of CPS and its workers; it is caused by inadequate human, community, and financial resources.

Local leaders, however, are committed to disrupting the status quo; they believe we can do better if we work together. It is uncertain exactly what varied actions this new coalition will pursue, but we are rising up to make a difference. 

Anna Futral, executive director of CASA of McLennan County, has agreed to chair the coalition’s steering committee. Anna has been seeking such community-wide action for some time and is well-prepared to lead. (CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.)

It is tempting to think of these issues as only a state government matter, but government agencies are not families, and these kids need families and all the care that should go with such relationships.

State-approved families that can provide foster care step into the gap. They become a child’s new place of safety and nurture for varied amounts of time as issues with the families of origin are worked out. But foster families and families of origin need support from community networks.

In addition to the state agency services and families providing foster care, there is a critical legal system to protect the rights of children, parents, and other relatives. Judge Nikki Mundkowsky and Judge Gary Coley are two who seek to guide this court system with eyes on both legal matters and human concerns.

Then multiple attorneys provide the proper legal representation to the children and families. 

In short, it is a multifaceted system that seeks to look after the needs created by families and children in crisis. In Greater Waco, leaders realize we need a more cohesive response to the situation. We need more communication, planning, and implementation. We also need more people and organizations to work together for these children and families.

If you or your organization would like to become involved in this collaborative effort, please reach out to me via email — [email protected].

As an African proverb says: It takes a village to raise a child.

Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care & communication with Prosper Waco. He is also acting executive director of Act Locally Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Service to others brings all kinds of joy

By Ferrell Foster

The murmur of the television filtered through the wall separating me from it, but another noise tickled my soul. My adult daughter, Tabitha, spoke over the TV voices. Music to the soul has a different rhythm and cadence than music for the ears; my daughter spoke to my soul because she was speaking to my mother’s ears.

My 92-year-old mother is virtually blind, seeing what I suspect are only hazy images. She can see enough to walk around our house with a little bit of guidance, but she cannot see the images on a television. 

During Thursday night’s Dallas Cowboys football game, my mother sat with focused attention gazing at the TV. Every once in a while when the camera zoomed in on a helmet, she blurted out, “There’s the star,” but mostly she sat staring at the screen’s brightness.

In the midst of this, Tabitha provided the necessary play-by-play commentary so Mom would know what was going on. TV announcers speak with the assumption you can see the basics of what is happening; a blind person needs more.

Mom has been a Cowboys fan for about 57 years, almost as long as they have been a franchise. One year, about 1964, we attended the State Fair of Texas and the Cowboys were playing a game that day at the Cotton Bowl, which was inside the fairgrounds. Dad and I were able to beg Mom and my sister to go to the game with us.

The Cowboys were just becoming good; they were a long way from becoming America’s Team. But mother became a fan that day. We ended up attending virtually every home game, and we even met Don Meredith, a distant cousin, and his dad after one of the games. 

Mother was and is a super fan. As a kid I would see my mother jump and scream and clap for the Cowboys as she would for nothing else. She still came close to jumping and screaming Thursday when she caught a glimpse of the now famous star on the helmets. She’s blind, but she still wants to “watch” Cowboys games.

So Tabitha gave Mom a great gift by telling her all that was happening in the game.

Virtually all of us need help with something, but we don’t always have someone to help us. There are needs throughout this community that are crying out for residents to help meet them. No one of us can help with all of those needs, but we can plug in to make a difference in one challenge.

Ashley Bean Thornton started Act Locally Waco to help residents enjoy Waco and get involved. We are still trying to do that. We share fun things, but we also tell other things that are happening so residents can get involved and make a difference.

If you see some community need on Act Locally Waco or elsewhere and your heart strings tug, get involved. If we all did one thing for others on a regular basis we would make a huge difference in the lives around us. And all of us need help with something either now or in the future.

It may not seem like a big deal to do the play-by-play for a blind person, but for a sightless person who cares about the Cowboys, it can mean the world. Little things can do that. And my daughter will always remember helping her grandmother enjoy the simple pleasures of “watching” a football game. Shoot, Tabitha, a Green Bay Packers fan, even used the “we” in talking about Mom’s team. Now that’s saying a lot, but little things matter.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Big Waco functions as a ‘regional hub’ of neighbors

By Ferrell Foster

People mean different things when they say “Waco.” Some mean the Waco of a few years ago (much smaller geographically); others think primarily of downtown and Baylor (where the action is), others mean the current city limits (reaching further and further out).

When I think of Waco, I think of what I call Big Waco and some call Greater Waco. I think of the city, plus Woodway, Hewitt, China Spring, Lacy Lakeview, Bellmead, Robinson, even all of McLennan County. Big Waco is big.

The national City Health Dashboard identifies 10 city types and includes 57 small to midsize Texas cities in their data. Waco is considered a “regional hub.” There are only three regional hubs in Texas — Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Waco. Nearby Temple is identified as a “working town.” College Station, Denton, and San Marcos are called “college cities.”

The regional hub designation, I think, captures the essence of Waco. We are different from a working town or a college city. We are more — for better or worse. 

The better part of being a regional hub is that people from surrounding communities come here to do business and to be entertained. Central Waco is like a magnet drawing people and resources to its core and helping all regional residents enjoy a better-resourced, more-connected life.

But there is a downside for regional hubs. The City Health Dashboard says this of the group: Regional hubs are “midsize ‘micropolitan’ cities that serve as hubs within smaller metro areas, with high inequality and large Black populations, where most residents work locally, and populations are decreasing.” Here are some characteristics of regional hubs:

— Great income inequality; “Black households earned 46% less than their White counterparts and this wage gap has been increasing.” (In Waco, Blacks earn about 40% less than Whites. In McLennan County, 47% less.)

— An average of 25% of residents live below the federal poverty line. (In Waco, 26.2% are below the poverty line. In the county, 19%.)

— Average life expectancy of 76 years at birth. (In Waco, 77 years.)

— Average rent burden of 54%, with an increase of 11.8% between 2000 and 2017
across cities.

(My thanks to the Prosper Waco research team for the local numbers.)

The future of Waco is captured in this simple picture. As a regional hub, we have a real opportunity for economic growth and lifestyle satisfaction. But, we should not be content with only a part of Waco and its region doing well. We need to care about racial, financial, and health inequities.

If we can address the downside challenges while we pursue the upside opportunities, we will be more than a regional hub; we will be a very good place to live, work, and do business.

I have two basic points here:

First, some people have a narrow view of Waco (the central city). I think it’s good for us to see this community more broadly, including acceptance of the surrounding towns and school districts as part of one whole. Each city/town, neighborhood, and school district is distinct, but we are connected — Big Waco.

Second, those who do not live in the parts of Big Waco that face serious economic and health challenges are still connected to those neighborhoods. In order for Big Waco to prosper, all of us are needed, especially in addressing our most challenging issues.

My faith tells me it is critical to love my neighbor. And love in that context does not mean an emotion; it is a commitment to serve. And neighbor is not just the person next door; it is anyone in need that I can help. Waco needs to be a place of good neighbors in the best and highest since of the phrase.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco helping clean up dining adventures

By Ferrell Foster

Fifteen months into my life as a Waco resident, I’ve discovered something new — local restaurant food inspection scores. It’s on the City of Waco website.

KWTX channel 10 reports area restaurant inspection scores.

I ran across this when I saw a story about the scores on KWTX channel 10’s website. I do not totally understand why the scores in the KWTX report do not match up with scores on the city site for the same restaurant; I suspect it has something to do with the reporting day.

When it comes to restaurant scores, lower is better. On the city site there are many zeros (hooray!) and the vast majority have scores in the single digits (more subdued celebration).

The channel 10 report highlighted two Greater Waco scores of 90. Yikes! And the losers are: Burger King #3714 at 103 East Loop 340 in Lacy Lakeview and Cracker Barrel #166 at 4275 North IH-35 in Lacy Lakeview.

Wouldn’t it be nice if restaurants had to to post, in 12-inch lettering on their doors, their most recent score. You’re walking up to your favorite place, which has always in the past had a big “0” on its door, to find a “75.” Whoa! Better think before you open the door and spend your money. Thoughts: There is a new manager. Last time I was here the mashed potatoes didn’t seem right.

Well, restaurants do not have to post their numbers, but we can look them up online, so that’s pretty cool. (Of course, some people do not have Internet access, so they are at a disadvantage in getting this info. Inequities are real.)

I liked that channel 10, after outing the bad players, presented this week’s Clean Plate Award winner — Mamaka Bowls at 215 South University Parks Dr. in Waco, “which obviously got a perfect food inspection score.”

Mamaka’s has endless combinations, the TV station reports. “There are specialty ingredients such as almond butter, cacao nibs, coconut shreds, and spirulina, which is basically blue-green algae. Of course, if you like it plain and simple, items like The Mac with mango, strawberry, pineapple, orange juice, topped with the fruit and a little homemade granola could treat your taste buds right.”

Publicly posted restaurant inspection scores protect all of us from bad players and helps us find the good ones. There simply is no go way for consumers to know what’s going on in the kitchen without such scores. You can get some clues about the cleanliness of a restaurant from how it cares for it’s dining area and, especially, its restrooms. (I have a desire to visit a restroom before I order. Sometimes I regret I went after eating.)

Food is important. A big tip of the hat to the many, many restaurants who are working hard to keep it clean. We need to honor them with our dollars. There are options; we don’t have to do business with dirty eateries. Of course, I wish they would all earn a zero. That would be better for everyone.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

On July 4, we celebrate the beginning of our freedom work

By Ferrell Foster

Independence Day is always special, but this year it is even more treasured. On July 4, 1776, the founders of this nation laid down some principles that would shape this people for generations. Now that we have added Juneteenth as a federal holiday, we can see more clearly that bringing those first principles to fruition is a process.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (U.S. Declaration of Independence).

Let’s put those words in chronological context:

1776 – The authors didn’t really mean “all men” and, of course, not women. Slaveholders were among the signers.

1861 – That disconnect eventually led to a Civil War, the most deadly war for Americans in their history.

1862 – President Lincoln started broadening freedom with the Emancipation Proclamation.

1865 – Slaves in Galveston learned of their freedom — Juneteenth.

That’s 89 years from the signing of the Declaration to Juneteenth. Countless people suffered and died to make that progress.

But any student of history knows that only chattel slavery (humans as owned property) ended in 1865; a new type of slavery emerged eventually grouped under the term of Jim Crow laws — varied rules that sought to keep African Americans in a subservient position.

1954 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruled that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. 

1955 – Rosa Parks says “no” to sitting at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and local pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., emerges as the bus boycott’s voice and eventually the nation’s.

1964 – In the wake of the assassination of President John Kennedy, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

1965 – Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

That’s 100 years between the first Juneteenth and the Voting Rights Act. 

The words of the Declaration of Independence did not free slaves; those words laid the philosophical and national foundations by which people could work to wrest their freedom from the power of oppressors.

On July 4 we do not celebrate freedom achieved; we celebrate freedom made possible. And in doing so we remember the long years of struggle from Independence Day to Juneteenth and then to the Voting Rights Act.

And this freedom is not a liberty to do whatever an individual wants; it is a freedom to enjoy the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, since all people are of equal value, we pursue those three things in consideration of the same pursuit by others.

All people (Black, Hispanic, Asian, White … any gender … from any nation) . . .

. . . are created equal (no group is superior) . . . 

. . . they are endowed by their Creator (this isn’t something a few people just made up) . . .

. . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We celebrate 1776 and 1865 and 1965, but we know there is still more to be done, and that includes right here in Waco.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and is senior content specialist for care and communition with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Driving in Waco: A confession and a warning

By Ferrell Foster

First, I should confess that I have a problem. I tend to get a bit aggressive when driving, especially regarding people who speed up to get ahead and pull in front of me and then break because they were going too fast. It’s especially irritating when there is plenty of space behind me.

I don’t mean to get aggressive, but I do. I think it’s part of getting older. I can no longer take out my competitiveness on a sporting field. My two human wheels no longer work so well, so I need to give my four automotive wheels a workout.

You’re probably wondering if I have an aggression problem in general. No. It’s really odd that the only time I really get wound up is when I drive around stupid people. And then I get stupid right along with them. (Forgive me, Mom; I know I’m not supposed to call anyone stupid, including myself. Moms haunt us even when we are 65.)

Now, for a public safety warning. It’s not a warning about me. I’ve only had one wreck in my 50 years of driving. Even when dealing with road rage, I tend to obey the laws.

Many of you know that I only moved to Waco last year and didn’t drive much in the early months because of the need to hide from other people due to COIVD. As things have gotten closer to normal, one thing has stood out vividly.

People in Waco like to run red lights. I don’t know if the yellow lights are shorter than in most places or if Wacoans are more impatient or more distracted by their phones. Maybe it’s just peer pressure; when everyone seems to be running red lights you feel a certain cultural pressure to conform and speed up on red. Check your rearview mirror if you are stopping under a yellow light; you may have to let off your brake.

Is this my imagination? Or is it just the traffic corridor that connects my office with my house — roughly the Extraco Events Center to near Hewitt?

Last year I wrote several pieces under the heading of being “New to Waco,” at the request of Ashley Thornton. I still feel new in some ways and thought I should warn those who are newer than me.

Of course, every town has its red-light runners, but they seem to have multiplied here. It seems with each light change it is more likely that someone will run a red light than that no one will. And I’m not talking about the light turning red while the car is already in the box; I’m talking about blatant red running.

So, for all of my love for this community, this is one thing that’s a little scary. When entering an intersection, be sure to look both left and right. There are people out there who are either color blind or cavalier about the meaning of a bright red light hanging from a pole in the middle of the street.

Let’s be careful out there so we can enjoy one another. And I promise I’m working on my driving. I’m seeking to make driving a moment of Zen so I can pretend the goings on around me are peripheral to reality. Of course, the truth is that Zen or no Zen, we can kill each other out there in a blink of the eye or a glance at a phone.

I’m loving Waco, even on the road.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Vaccinations provide Wacoans with renewed confidence

By Ferrell Foster

In a Zoom call of community leaders Wednesday morning, Suzii Paynter March noted, “There is a new sense of resiliency and the confidence that comes with vaccinations.”

Educator, Dr. Hazel Rowe, responded in the chat box, “Suzii, It is the ability to EXHALE!!”

So true. If you have not yet gotten your vaccinations, let me encourage you. It provides you with more than disease protection; it gives your spirit a boost, as well.

I know some people are hesitant to get the vaccination because they just don’t like vaccines or they have heard some of the false rumors circulating on the Internet. If you are hesitant or know someone who is, please know that there is a tremendous upside to getting these shots. 

After so many months of knowing that you could be exposed to the virus at any time, it is easy to forget what it was like to feel comfortable in public spaces. COVID-19 is particularly fearful because carriers of the disease often do not know they have it. 

Having the vaccination in your arm gives you a sense of almost having a superpower. You may not be able to fly like Superman, but you gradually develop a confidence that COVID bounce off of you like bullets bounce off of Superman.

As Suzii said, you do feel a “new sense of resiliency and the confidence that comes with vaccinations.” And as Dr. Rowe said, you can begin to exhale, both emotionally and physically. And, if you’ve ever tried to hold your breath a long time, it really does feel liberating to exhale.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

A moment in time points toward a need to care & act

By Ferrell Foster

An encounter with a stranger haunts me.

Last month, in the midst of the winter storm, we decided to flee our powerless house for my daughter’s house in another town. It was Tuesday afternoon. We had been without power almost all of the time since 8 a.m. Monday. The temperature had dropped to 2 or 3 degrees outside Tuesday morning.

We motored northward and stopped a little north of town to get gas. Inside the store, I stood in a two-pronged line waiting to check out. 

A woman, shorter than me and probably not as old as me, took her place in the line adjacent to me. She smiled big and had a happy lilt in her voice.

“We haven’t had power in two days,” she said.

“I know. We’ve been without power, too,” I responded.

“It got down to 27 degrees in our house last night,” she said, still with a bit of mirth in her voice.

“Oh, my,” or something like that, was all I could say.

Lines advance. She checks out; I check out. We go our ways.

So why can’t I forget this encounter? For a simple reason.

The woman and I both lived through a powerless night when the temperature outside dropped almost to zero. She lived in a 27-degree icebox of a house. The temperature in our house never dropped below 52.

People with resources encounter some of the same challenges in life that those with less resources face, but we do not deal with these challenges on equal footing. Not only did my house keep my family and me much warmer than this woman’s, but we also had someplace to go.

One of my daughters stood in the line with me. After we left, I commented on the woman’s situation in contrast to ours, and Tabitha noted that the woman still seemed to have on her pajamas with a house coat on top. I hadn’t noticed.

This woman was not dressed for travel. Chances are she headed back to her icebox and had to wait who knows how long for relief. Still, she smiled.

Driving northward, Tabitha read me a news account of the power outages in East Waco. This story included a quote from my friend, Waco Council Member Andrea Barefield. She spoke to the importance of alleviating the infrastructure problems in East Waco.

Our neighbors who are most in need should be our highest priority. People in poorer neighborhoods should have the absolute best when it comes to streets, water, and power because they already have enough challenges. 

Why is it so often the other way around in cities across this country? It doesn’t have to be; Waco can be different. We can give our best to those who have the least.

We stand or sink together as a community from East Waco to North and South and West. We are Waco; we seek our best.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Waco leaders stress safe practices & flu shots

By Ferrell Foster

Five Waco civic, health, and school leaders Wednesday encouraged the people of Greater Waco to think of their neighbors and to be careful how they are involved in gatherings and celebrate the Labor Day weekend. They also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot.

With the holiday coming and football season upon us, Mayor Kyle Deaver asked residents to do these activities “smartly and safely” so the community can remain open. “Take care of yourself and take care of each other.” He made the comments during the weekly City of Waco News Conference related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Maze, executive director for Education Service Center Region 12, noted, “What happens in the community shows up in the schools,” and that can be both good and bad. “If everyone works together and makes good decisions, we get better outcomes.”

Dr. Brian Becker, of Ascension Providence Hospital, called special attention to the holiday weekend, noting that following standard safety procedures is important for our public health and to our neighbors.

Dr. Marc Elieson, of Baylor Scott & White-HIllcrest, also spoke to the importance of wearing face masks, distancing, and proper hand hygiene. ”Be wise,” he said.

A number of questions were asked about schools and Baylor. For students, “it’s so much more about what’s happening off campus,” Mayor Deaver said. “We know this is hard; it’s trying for everyone, … but it’s the way we keep schools open and having football” and other activities.

Dr. Jackson Griggs, of the Family Health Center, praised the efforts of Baylor University to test and then isolate students exposed to COVID-19. “I’m impressed with efforts by Baylor to mitigate the risk.”

Current hospitalizations are down some, but the hospital representatives said their in-patient numbers usually lag behind case counts by about a week. And case counts have been rising in McLennan County.

The current “Effective Reproduction Rate” for McLennan County is 1.07, Mayor Deaver said. Anything above 1 means the disease is expanding, not contracting. The Rt is a measure of contagiousness or how many people one COVID-19 person infects.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Griggs highlighted the importance of bringing down the positivity rate. In recent weeks that rate has hovered just under 15% in McLennan County, which is above the state rate. More testing helps identify people with COVID-19 and also lowers the positivity rate. “Anyone with subtle symptoms needs to come in and be tested,” Dr. Griggs said. The first step is to contact your primary care physician.

The head of Family Health Center also emphasized the importance of flu vaccinations. “We need to keep flu rates down this season,” Dr. Griggs said. There’s a lot we don’t know about flu and COVID-19 infections in the same person. “Flu vaccines are imperative.”

It is especially important to promote the flu vaccines in “communities of color” because they have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and have “historically lower vaccination rates.” 

The news conference is aired at 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday at WCCC-TV for the public to view.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication for Prosper Waco. He also serves on the Act Locally Waco Board of Directors and helps the website with blog posts related to health, education, financial security, and equity.